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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2005 Nov;315(2):711-21. Epub 2005 Jul 22.

Fenobam: a clinically validated nonbenzodiazepine anxiolytic is a potent, selective, and noncompetitive mGlu5 receptor antagonist with inverse agonist activity.

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Pharma Division, Discovery Research CNS, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Basel, Switzerland.


Fenobam [N-(3-chlorophenyl)-N'-(4,5-dihydro-1-methyl-4-oxo-1H-imidazole-2-yl)urea] is an atypical anxiolytic agent with unknown molecular target that has previously been demonstrated both in rodents and human to exert anxiolytic activity. Here, we report that fenobam is a selective and potent metabotropic glutamate (mGlu)5 receptor antagonist acting at an allosteric modulatory site shared with 2-methyl-6-phenylethynyl-pyridine (MPEP), the protypical selective mGlu5 receptor antagonist. Fenobam inhibited quisqualate-evoked intracellular calcium response mediated by human mGlu5 receptor with IC(50) = 58 +/- 2 nM. It acted in a noncompetitive manner, similar to MPEP and demonstrated inverse agonist properties, blocking 66% of the mGlu5 receptor basal activity (in an over expressed cell line) with an IC(50) = 84 +/- 13 nM. [(3)H]Fenobam bound to rat and human recombinant receptors with K(d) values of 54 +/- 6 and 31 +/- 4 nM, respectively. MPEP inhibited [(3)H]fenobam binding to human mGlu5 receptors with a K(i) value of 6.7 +/- 0.7 nM, indicating a common binding site shared by both allosteric antagonists. Fenobam exhibits anxiolytic activity in the stress-induced hyperthermia model, Vogel conflict test, Geller-Seifter conflict test, and conditioned emotional response with a minimum effective dose of 10 to 30 mg/kg p.o. Furthermore, fenobam is devoid of GABAergic activity, confirming previous reports that fenobam acts by a mechanism distinct from benzodiazepines. The non-GABAergic activity of fenobam, coupled with its robust anxiolytic activity and reported efficacy in human in a double blind placebo-controlled trial, supports the potential of developing mGlu5 receptor antagonists with an improved therapeutic window over benzodiazepines as novel anxiolytic agents.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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